Crown Publishing Group/Penguin Random House, $26.00, 287 pages, ISBN 978-0-451-49957-8
Recently, there’s been a growing movement in the publishing world, attempting to increase readership and sell more books by encouraging some A-list male crime fiction writers to produce new novels using androgynous-sounding names. The reasoning behind this is that unisex pen names will attract more female readers, since they tend to avoid the tougher, more hard-boiled stuff they associate with men. Since women make up eighty percent of the readers in the world today, they’re going to be catered to. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about this, but here’s the first nom-de-plume MBR. It’s written by Stuart Neville, one of my favorite Irish crime writers, under the name Haylen Beck.
Here and Gone, by Haylen Beck is a tense, propulsive thriller that will put the reader on the edge of her seat in the first few chapters and never let up until the conclusion, because it taps straight into the human heart by addressing one of our most basic animal emotions: protecting our babies.
A woman named Audra Kinney is in an old station wagon with Sean and Louise, her two young kids. She’s fleeing an abusive husband and his domineering mother back in New York; trying to get to California. Keeping to the back roads, taking her time and avoiding attention, she’s made it to the outback of Arizona and the dying town of Silver Water. There, she’s pulled over by the local sheriff, who searches her car. He pulls a bag of marijuana from her trunk that she’s never seen before. In a full-blown panic, she’s put in handcuffs and stuffed in the back of a police car in what appears to be a living nightmare. But the nightmare will be worse than she could ever have imagined . . . and it’s just beginning in this novel of epic suspense and dynamic, totally surprising and unexpected twists that’ll have you wanting a shower by the time you’ve read the last page!